As I was driving home from dropping my son off at school this morning, I waited behind a bus as kids got on, some giggling and roughhousing, others bleary-eyed and sedate. As the bus pulled away I noticed the lone mother still at the stop watching the bus move away from her and I thought she must feel that she could protect her child, keep him or her free from the influence of rowdy kids or mean teachers as long as they remained in her line of sight. Or maybe she was wishing/praying/creating/projecting a protective bubble for them. It made my gut clench at the thought of one day soon having to lend my son to an alien world for the better part of every day.
My son Rilo goes to school at a privately-owned, in-home Montessori school. There are three other kids in the school. Yes, you read that right. IN THE SCHOOL. I grew up in similar school setting, one that I am certain had a negative impact on my social development as well as my tender young pysche and self-esteem. How could I be so cavalier as to place him in the same kind of situation and set him up to repeat my failures?
How do you go about deciding on a school for your child? What’s the magic formula? The answer to that is simple. And simple is the worst because it always goes hand in hand with – but not easy. Which means hard. Ugh.
It’s not the same setting, he’s a different child, I’m a different mom, it’s different. As trite as it is to say that, it’s just the truth. The ish factor. Every situation calls for contemplation and thoughtful action. Which is cool in a special snowflake kind of way, but also truly sucks in a OH GOD I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DIRECTION THIS CHILD’S LIFE TAKES kind of way. It would be so much simpler if there was a standard format that we all just followed no matter what. Kind of like when we were kids and you went to the public school near you unless your parents were rich and you went to boarding school in Paris or hippies and you went to school in a religious commune. Either, either.
Too many choices foster mucho anxiety. We say to give our kids two choices so they have a sense of control, but more choices makes for less control and far more insecurity and reasons to doubt and worry.
Worry, right? It defines parenthood. Parent – noun, one who worries. There are so many worries from the day you are aware of their existence. But this one feels different, so monumentally, life-affectingly major. The first of a lifetime of big, scary, real worries.
I have a friend who is rocking the ish out of the homeschooling thing this year with her two kids, who is intentional and thoughtful and fully aware as a parent. And she questions her choices on the regular. I have other friends who have carefully researched and chosen schools who worry. I, myself, have spent countless hours researching and analyzing and agonizing. I don’t know any parent who hasn’t put blood, sweat and tears into the decision.
Academics are a part of it. Can he keep up? Can he pay attention? Can he sit in one place for, holy mother of crap, SIX HOURS? Will he wear his glasses so he can see the board? Will he get a full ride to Harvard or at least ITT Tech? Will he come out of this with an adequate earning potential to be able to support his mama? Because, let’s be real, mama is aging at a rapid pace. And Cadbury mini eggs go for a premium in the off-season.
What’s most terrifying is the inability to protect and defend, maybe to not even ever know that defense was needed. Kids are assholes. Adults are assholes. You’re basically putting your kid into a giant metal box on wheels WITHOUT A SEATBELT and sending him off, unprotected and undefended, to a place that’s one part Pinnochio’s Pleasure Island and one part Professor Umbridge’s class at Hogwarts and comprised of only asshole strangers who will eat your child’s tender psyche with fava beans and a nice Chianti. How can this be okay? Whose Koolaid did we all drink to agree to allow this to happen every single day?
This is what it means to be a parent. To make the choices for each child as individuals to best prepare them to navigate the asshole-filled alien world on their own. For now it means sending them off in a giant metal box every morning with a belly full of healthy food and a mind full of the ideas and beliefs we choose to instill, sending protective juju as the box moves down the street and making sure those lines of communication are in good working order. Later it means letting them go out on dates alone, to drive the car solo, to go to the school they really want to go to and will give them the opportunity to stretch and grow even if it’s two planes, one train and a bus ride away. Or just being brave enough to take a deep breath and blow them a kiss as they choose to jump, without fear, into the great unknown.